Am Pol Paper on Federalism and Civil Rights

Am Pol Paper on Federalism and Civil Rights - 1 Lauren...

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Lauren Napolitano March 13, 2008 In its present form, federalism has an immense impact on everyday life in the United States. Under a federal system, the power is divided between a central authority and several constituent political units. Currently, the United States utilizes a “marble cake” federal system. The marble cake signifies the multiple interactions between both the national government and the state government. Federalism is one of the six fundamental principles of the United States Constitution. Federalism continues to play a major role in civil rights. Civil rights are the freedoms endangered by those people outside of the government. Civil rights enable the government to control the governed through the use of laws. Over the years, there has been a general pattern of the expansion of civil rights. Civil rights apply to many different groups in society including those of race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and gender. However, the most prevalent group affected by the interpretation of civil rights is African Americans. Federalism has had both positive and negative impacts on civil rights for African Americans throughout the nation’s history. The Dred Scott decision in 1857 demonstrates one of the negative effects that federalism has on civil rights. The case was brought about because Dred Scott, a slave from Missouri, was taken into a state in which slavery was illegal. Conflict then arose because it was not clear whether Scott was granted freedom or if he remained a slave. The case was taken to court and eventually made it all the way up to the Supreme Court. The Chief Justice at the time, Roger Taney, was known for his large support of states’ rights. Therefore, Taney decided that Scott was not free because he had returned to 1
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Missouri to file a lawsuit, consequently losing the freedom he may have gained. The rule in the Dred Scott decision ultimately led to the conclusion that the federal ban on slavery based on territory was unconstitutional. It goes against the slave-owners right to property, with the slaves representing property in this case. Federalism had a negative effect on civil rights in this situation because it limited Scott’s freedom. The state power was placed above federal power in this case, making it difficult for Scott and other slaves to gain freedom. Federalism put a tight restrain on civil rights by delaying the eventual freedom of slaves. An additional instance in which federalism setback the expansion of civil rights was the initial release of the Emancipation Proclamation. According to the law, the slaves living within the confederacy were granted freedom. However this did not guarantee freedom to all slaves. The Emancipation Proclamation only applied to the rebelling states. This is just another example of the government not completely following through with its actions. Federalism is partly to blame in this situation because the state governments were able to find a loophole in the national government’s plans. The
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This note was uploaded on 03/31/2008 for the course POLISCI 30 taught by Professor Covington during the Fall '07 term at University of Iowa.

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Am Pol Paper on Federalism and Civil Rights - 1 Lauren...

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